[M]erriam-Webster defines discernment as an act of perceiving or discerning something. (OK, not the opening I was hoping for.) Discern is defined as: detect with senses other than vision, to come to know or recognize mentally. In biblical terms, discernment involves prayer and seeking wise counsel.  Discernment is often thought of as wisdom, but I see it as they are different but should go hand in hand.  Solomon was the wisest man in the land, but not very discerning when I came to the ways of his wives and concubines. Bottom line, as I mentioned in the last chapter, Joy Squared strives to use “discerned giving” when it comes to who we support financially.

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Back at Just One Recovery, “S” is doing great.  He very quickly fell back into being the young man he was before he returned home last time.  He is laughing, having fun with the other clients, taking responsibility for his part and the choices he made, and looking forward to where God will take him next. But even with all that there was a sadness underlying his demeanor.  It was in a group meeting that he shared that he was afraid to go back home after his 30 days at Just One.  His parents, although supportive of “S”’s sobriety, weren’t willing to give up their own drinking to excess back at home. Alcohol (alone) was not what brought “S” to rehab, but for him it is a gateway to the heavier stuff. Sending him right back into that environment would not have been good for him and it would be like throwing our original “discerned giving” away. The fact was the “S” only had one more week left in treatment and something needed to be done quickly.

At my last one-on-one with “S” he presented me with a list of rooms in the area he could rent and still stay in the area.  There was no question in my mind that “S” wanted help, but there were hurdles to overcome, besides a place to live, food, and a job.  There were community service hours that needed to be completed and a visit to the court to see if the judge would allow the hours to be moved to Orange County.  There was an anger management class to complete.  Then there was the issue of his transportation if he couldn’t get his hours moved.  None of this deterred “S”.  He was ready to take these challenges head on.

As a demonstration for God’s perfect timing, the Joy Squared board had a meeting scheduled and I asked US Casinos to put “S” on the agenda.  I knew that J2 has never been a “one and done” kind of organization.  Part of our discernment is coming alongside people who could use a hand up, not a hand out.  “S” was looking for a hand up.  I presented “S”’s case before the board.  I shared that “S” was willing to do his part of the “deal.”  He knew he had responsibility in this and support from Joy Squared depended on his staying sober, getting a job, and becoming self-sustaining within a given time frame.  But ultimately I had to confess that I just had a feeling about “S”; that God had big plans for him and I wanted to help those plans come to fruition.

At the board meeting it was decided that the newly formed “Discernment Committee” (Yes, we really called it that) would meet again to discuss details of our support.  Scott, Dan, and I met in the parking lot of Mary’s Kitchen two days later.  To help us discern the proper support, Scott also invited a few men who aren’t directly involved with the decision, as getting wise counsel is also a form of discernment.  On the tailgate of Scott’s truck, a few figures were discussed, but it was decided the best thing to do was to have a discussion directly with “S”.  We agreed that we would get together Monday night during the church’s recovery support meetings. Along with Scott, Dan, “S”, and I, we also invited Jamie, the director of Just One Recovery, since he knew “S” and his progress better than any of us.  The stage was set.  We were all ready and prayed up, realizing that the meeting was truly about more than money. It was about the life and future of a young man of whom God was very fond.

The meeting with “S” went well.  He told us his story what brought him to Just One the first time, and what had made him want to return.  As a gesture of his commitment to sobriety and a new life, he had gone to the LA courthouse earlier in the day and had his community service transferred to Orange County. All in all “S” had learned a lesson in humility and was ready to move forward.  When I am done writing this blog posting I am going to be writing a contract for Joy Squared and “S” to sign to show our commitment to each other.

The thing about discernment is that sometimes you have to wait a while before you find out how well you did.  Scott, Dan, and I feel very good about our decision to help “S”; you might even say it brought us great joy to do so.  But truth be told, “S” has a long row to hoe.  He has the support of everyone at Joy Squared and Just One, and the unconditional love of an amazing God, but it will ultimately be up to his own discernment and decision-making that will turn his life around.  This is where you come in.  If you find yourself with a moment, please say a little prayer for “S”. Pray that he is given the discernment he needs to choose between right and wrong, and the strength to do what he knows is right. In a few months time, with God’s help, I will be able to write the final chapter of “S”’s story for this season of his life, and because of your prayers I will b able to end it with…”And he lived happily and soberly ever after.”